Two main hypotheses are now being discussed in political circles in Beirut. The first is that Prime Minister Najib Mikati is “nonchalant,” meaning that the cabinet he heads neither reflects his views nor adds to his political, professional, or financial status and that it anyway carries within it the seeds of its failure. The second is that he is “adamant,” meaning that he is extremely keen on staying in office.
Supporters of the first argument say that Mikati, who was given confidence by the parliament a year ago, grabbed a “ball of fire” and tolerated all sorts if insults, rumors, and compromises in order to maintain stability and minimize the hazards of the explosive situation in Syria.
According to this argument, Mikati is known for his patriotism, efficiency, pleasant disposition, and humility as well as his exceptional international relations — all factors that make occupying the position of prime minister a sacrifice rather than a benefit. For those who adopt this hypothesis, Mikati has risked his reputation, credibility, and personal safety when he became prime minister. They add that he abided by Lebanon’s international treaties, insisted on funding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) against the will of his allies, and got international support for his “Disassociation Policy.”
Yet, supporters of the second hypothesis don’t buy that and believe that Mikati wants so much to stay in power and that he accepted to become prime minister even though he knew that given the regional and international circumstances he will have no say in his government. For them, he does not take credit for Lebanon’s noninvolvement in the Syrian crisis since that was rather dictated by the regional and international context.
True, they add, Mikati insisted on funding STL twice, but that basically served his own interests and contributed to getting those who brought him to power out of their isolation. Supporters of this argument note that had Mikati been really nonchalant, he would have submitted his resignation especially with the state being on the verge of collapsing and the government unable to achieve any progress let alone the security vacuum, the return of the specter of political assassinations, and the rise of fundamentalism. Add to this the faltering economy, accumulating debts, lack of productivity, and rampant corruption. This, they say, is made worse by the deterioration of public services, rising rates of unemployment, abject poverty, organized crime, and immigration and the loss of hope that accompanies all these factors.
Between both arguments some are asking whether Mikati alone is held accountable for the failure in dealing with all those critical issue and whether they will all be miraculously resolved the moment he submits his resignation. Who said that those who claim to be seasoned politicians have the ability to come up with a more harmonious, more productive, or more efficient government? Is this anyway likely to happen with the current internal divisions and regional balances?
This leads to another question: With the Arab Spring is at its peak and with rulers no longer able to get away with their mistakes, would it wise of an official to jump off the boat to rescue himself?
In all cases, Lebanon and its people have the right to get — with or without Najib Mikati — an efficient and responsible government that has a clear plan and a creative mindset and is comprised of ministers known for their integrity and ability to maintain law and order and to restore the powers of state institutions in a way that faces challenges and lives up to expectations.
(This article first appeared in Annahar newspaper on July 13, 2012)